House approves on 3rd reading bill on safe nuclear energy use

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

November 22, 2023, 7:10 pm

<p>Bataan Nuclear Power Plant<em> (File photo)</em></p>

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a measure that would promote safe nuclear energy use with the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (PhilATOM).

During the plenary session, a total of 200 lawmakers voted to approve House Bill 9293, or the proposed Philippine National Nuclear Energy Safety Act, which provides for a comprehensive legal framework for nuclear safety, security, and safeguards in the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy in the country.

Seven lawmakers voted against the measure, while 2 abstained.

Speaker Martin Romualdez said the PhilATOM shall have the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to exercise regulatory control for the peaceful, safe and secure uses of nuclear energy and radiation sources in the Philippines.

"This is the first step toward realizing our dream of energy security. We share this bold but promising vision of President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' R. Marcos Jr. to look into nuclear energy seriously," Romualdez said.

Special Committee on Nuclear Energy Chairperson and Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, sponsor of the measure, stressed the need for the establishment of an independent regulatory body so that regulatory judgments can be made, and enforcement actions would be taken without pressure from interests that might conflict with safety.

"It is therefore imperative for the state to subscribe to the safety standards imposed by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) being a State member, to ensure the protection of the people and the environment, both now and in the future," he said. "The need for a separate organization, whose sole concern would be nuclear safety, security, and safeguards, separate from the promotional, political and economic influences, becomes apparent."

Cojuangco said the proposed law would help facilitate the country's economic development, as well as the proper utilization of nuclear energy, resulting in cost-effective, dependable, and clean electricity.

When enacted into law, he said the country would be able to comply with the international obligations about the utilization of nuclear energy, as recommended by the IAEA.

The proposed PhilATOM will assume all regulatory tasks currently held by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute.

Among PhilATOM's functions and responsibilities is assisting the government in developing national policies and measures for controlling regulated activities and facilities.

A radioactive waste management fund shall also be established for the final disposition of spent nuclear fuel, as well as a decommissioning fund as a condition of authorization to operate a nuclear power plant, both to be held in trust by the Development Bank of the Philippines. (PNA)